Mt. Belah, Kehje Sewen Forest, April 23, 2012
On April 23, 2012, the morning sun was a cue for us to start moving. At 6:30 AM, Casey, Lesan and Mail were loaded onto our rented Hi-Line pickup trucks belonging to the local Pelangsiran residents. And together with the Release Team, they headed to Mount Belah, a location name for our Orangutan Conservation Area in the Kehje Sewen Forest. This site was going to be Casey’s, Lesan’s and Mail’s new home.
Mt. Belah is around 1.5 kilometers from Camp 103, our main camp in Kehje Sewen Forest. After riding the pickup trucks for around 30 minutes, we had to cross a river, which was swollen the day before (arrival day) due to heavy rain, forcing us and the orangutans to retreat to Camp 103. But this morning, water levels had dropped down to normal and our pickup trucks had no problem crossing it. We stopped on the other side of the river, right at the river’s edge. We had arrived on the outer rim of the conservation area.
But the journey was not over yet. The release site was 700 meters inside the forest of Mt. Belah. The team had to carry the three transport cages, crossing rivers five times, on foot.
It wasn’t easy. Each of these orangutans weighed between 20 – 30 kilograms. So we had to stop several times to rest and catch our breaths.
Finally, we arrived at the release site. Here, we had constructed two spacious acclimatization enclosures – one for Lesan and Mail; and another one for Casey. Because these three youngsters were rehabilitants, we needed to put them in these enclosures for a day or two to give them time to adjust (acclimatize) with the new surroundings and to give us time to observe them and ensure that they were indeed ready to be released.
Just in case you’re wondering, “rehabilitants” mean orangutans whom we (humans) raise and train (rehabilitate) since they are very young in order to be wild, instead of wild ones who are raised in the forest by their mothers.
So at around 8 AM this morning, Casey, Lesan and Mail were transferred from the transport cages into these acclimatization enclosures. They will spend a night here, under the watchful eyes of our Medical Team and Monitoring Team. If things go according well, we will release them tomorrow, on April 24, 2012.